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How to Feed a Mob

December 15, 1991|LAURIE OCHOA

In ample space under the broadest shade, A table richly spread in regal mode, With dishes piled and meats of noblest sort And savour--beasts of chase, or fowl of game, In pastry built, or from the spit, or boiled . . . And at a stately sideboard, by the wine That fragrant smell diffused . . . --John Milton, Paradise Regained

People may be what makes a great party, but it's the food that sparks the crowd.

What follows are party recipes for good eating: finger food for nibbling during those first nervous moments; a salad to refresh and keep the mood light; chicken, crisp and flavorful, to get the juices flowing; a soup kept warm on the fire; and a sweet ending.

This white-bean soup is full of wonderful flavors--sage, thyme and garlic and olive oil. But it's the Pistou--Italian parsley and garlic in a heady mix--that makes this the kind of soup your friends will want to keep eating and eating. You should, however, be warned: The garlic count is high; your guests will remember this soup the next day.

The recipe comes from Patty Peck, who used to cook at Chez Panisse. She's part of the three-woman catering team Banana & Velvet, which serves its food at film shoots, celebrity parties and other events.

If you don't have a stockpot large enough to hold the full recipe, divide the soup into two pots. The recipe also works well in smaller amounts--one-quarter of the recipe makes a good family-sized portion.

WHITE-BEAN SOUP WITH PISTOU

7 1/2 cups Great Northern beans

100 fresh sage leaves

30 whole cloves garlic (about 3 heads), peeled

30 bay leaves

60 branches fresh thyme

2 1/4 cups virgin olive oil

5 pounds banana squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes, optional

10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

10 medium red or yellow onions, chopped fine

10 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

Salt, pepper

Pistou

Soak beans overnight. Drain beans and place in large stock pot. Cover with 2 1/2 to 3 gallons water. Add half sage, whole peeled garlic cloves, 20 bay leaves, thyme, 3/4 cup olive oil and squash. Bring to boil, then simmer until beans are tender, 1 to 2 hours.

Heat remaining olive oil in large skillet or saute pan. Add remaining sage, chopped garlic and remaining bay leaves. Saute 5 minutes, then add onions and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Saute 20 minutes.

Add tomato mixture to beans then simmer 1/2 hour. Remove herb stems and bay leaves before serving. At table, place 1 dollop Pistou in each bowl or serve alongside. Makes 40 to 50 servings.

Note: If short on time, quick-soak the beans. Cover beans with water, bring to boil and boil 1 minute. Let beans stand covered 1 hour.

Each serving contains about:

330 calories; 707 mg sodium; 4 mg cholesterol; 27 grams fat; 17 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 2 grams fiber; 74% calories from fat.

Pistou

10 cups Italian parsley (about 4 bunches)

20 cloves garlic (about 2 heads), peeled

2 1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

2 1/4 cups virgin olive oil

2 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese

8 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Blend parsley, garlic, salt and olive oil in food processor until smooth paste forms. Stir in Parmesan cheese and vinegar. Makes about 2 cups.

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